This is it. The cheapest new Porsche you can buy. The 2020 Porsche Macan starts at $52,250, including destination, a little over half what you’ll pay for a base 911 Carrera. What that gets you is a premium compact SUV powered by a 248-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a description that could equally be applied to an AWD Lincoln Corsair that’s about $12,000 cheaper. Is the Porsche badge really worth that much more?
The truth is, of course, you’re buying more than just the badge. Although it lacks the exhilarating punch of the $61,000 Macan S, this entry-level Macan retains all the other goodness of its V-6-powered sibling. As with the Macan S, the 2019 model year upgrades build on the baby Porsche SUV’s benchmark dynamics and trademark design cues to deliver improved ride comfort, lower noise levels, a state-of-the-art communications and navigation system, and simple but effective styling tweaks.
It might be the slowest, least powerful Porsche in the lineup, but the Macan still corners, steers, and stops like an SUV whose dynamics have been honed by a sports car specialist. It’s compact and wieldy, feels like it’s been machined from a billet of steel, and looks … like a Porsche.
Visual changes introduced as part of the 2019 model year refresh include a new front fascia with gaping vents either side of the grille to give the car a broader stance on the road. There’s a new rear fascia, too, along with the full-width taillight graphic that’s now a Porsche family design signature. Porsche has made 21-inch wheels available on the Macan for the first time, and there are four new exterior colors. LED headlights are standard, but new technology makes the biggest splash inside, courtesy of the 10.9-inch high-definition touchscreen in the center of the dash that provides the user interface for the Porsche Communication Management system (PCM). PCM, which made its debut in the Panamera, features beautifully rendered graphics and fast reaction times, and the screen layout can be customized several different ways.
The chassis concept is fundamentally unchanged from that of the previous model. That means multilink suspension front and rear and the choice of conventional steel springs or height-adjustable two-chamber air suspension. The front suspension components are now aluminum, however, reducing unsprung mass by 3.3 pounds and improving front axle stiffness. The optional air suspension system has optimized rolling pistons and new damping hydraulics, and the stabilizer bars have been recalibrated to deliver more neutral handling. The Macan also now follows the bigger Cayenne’s asymmetric tire strategy, the fronts slightly narrower than the rears, no matter what size wheel you order.
The seeds of doubt—is the Macan really worth Porsche money?—are sown by what’s under the hood. The 248-hp, 2.0-liter four-banger nestling there is a Porsche-massaged version of the VW Group’s versatile EA888 turbo engine, variants of which power a number of everyday Volkswagens—and some special ones, too, such as the iconic Golf GTI and the 166-mph pocket supercar that is the Golf R. It gets a new direct-injection cylinder head with centrally located injectors and makes its peak power from 5,000 rpm to 6,750 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque from 1,600 rpm to 4,500 rpm. On paper that’s surprisingly mid-pack, especially in the context of the 306 hp churned out by the Golf R’s version of the engine. It’s a different story on the road, though.
Let’s rewind to that AWD Lincoln Corsair: The Macan has virtually the same power and torque and weighs about 100 pounds more, but it’s a full second quicker to 60 mph. The Porsche’s headline output numbers are only part of the story; what’s more important is how they’re deployed. Peak torque arrives much earlier than in the Lincoln and hangs on for 1,500 more revs, while peak power arrives 500 revs sooner and continues to be developed 1,250 rpm after the Lincoln’s engine has begun to run out of breath.
Working in conjunction with the slick, efficient, responsive seven-speed PDK transmission, the Macan’s engine thus punches above its weight. Selecting Sport mode delivers crisper throttle response and allows the transmission to hold a lower gear even when you lift off, helping the Porsche feel more alert in traffic or on a winding two-lane. Use the paddles, and the Macan can be hustled from point to point with the neatness of a hot hatch, though the rear-biased torque split gives it the balance of a sports car. And with less weight over the front axle than its V-6-powered sibling, the Macan feels just a touch more alert the moment you turn the steering wheel.
Our tester was fitted with more than $13,500 worth of extras, not hard to do given Porsche’s extensive—and expensive—options list. Some, like heated front seats ($530) and auto dimming mirrors ($420), should really be standard equipment on a $52,250 vehicle. Even charging extra for partial leather trim ($1,740) at this price point seems egregious.
You can quibble over color choice ($750 for anything other than black or white, though the Carmine Red, Chalk, and Miami Blue special colors from the Porsche 911 palette will cost you $3,120) and whether you want wheels bigger than the standard 18-inch units; the cheapest 19-inch wheel is $1,660, and the cheapest 20-incher an eye-watering $4,200. But one option definitely worth considering is the height-adjustable air suspension ($2,750), which adds a syrupy layer of compliance to the tightly controlled body motions, no matter which wheel/tire combination you choose to fit.
It may have less motor than the six-cylinder Macan S, but this four-cylinder Macan doesn’t feel less of a Porsche. It’s merely a slower one: 0–60 mph in 6.3 seconds versus 5.1 seconds, according to Porsche, with a top speed of 142 mph versus 157 mph. You get bigger front brakes (360mm versus 34 mm) and 19-inch wheels and tires as standard on the Macan S. But unless you’re always hustling along canyon roads, where the six-cylinder version’s superior midcorner throttle adjustability and greater punch on corner exit are immediately noticeable, you’re basically spending an extra $8,500 to save a tick of the clock you won’t notice and get an extra 15 mph you can’t use. In this context, the Porsche Macan makes sense.
Besides, Porsche and four-cylinder Volkswagen engines have a long history together. Right back to the beginning, in fact.